The Rif Community Foundation (RifCom), as its name suggests, works in the Rif Mountains of Northern Morocco and primarily in the province of Chefchaouen (centered on the town of Chefchaouen, often called the jewel of the Rif) and the entirety of the breathtaking Talassemtane National Park.
The Rif Mountains belong to a geological formation known as the Gibraltar Arc which joins the North of Morocco to the South of Europe. The name comes from the Berber word arif, meaning wise, and the region is well known for its cultural and geographical diversity. Stunning mountains rise above the Mediterranean Sea, rivers crash down narrow ravines and rare Barbary macaque monkeys and the protected Pinsapo Pine call this place home.
A mix of cultures can be found in The Rif – including Arabic, French and Spanish, but the area’s indigenous people are the Rif Berbers, the Riffians, who also call themselves “Amazigh”, meaning The Free People. They are considered tough and resilient because they live in an extremely harsh environment; they are also proud, hospitable and spirited.
In rural areas, access to municipal services is limited with connection to electricity often intermittent and water collected from shared wells. Lack of roads and public transport to remote mountain villages makes access to health care difficult and unattainable for some communities.
Primary education has become well established across much of the Rif, with preschool classrooms recently added, but secondary schools are still relatively few and confined almost entirely to areas of denser population. As a result, many pupils (especially girls) miss out on secondary education and literacy rates in the region can be very low.
Whilst schools teach Moroccan Arabic and French, the language of the Riffians is called Tarifit and is different from that of other Berbers.
Subsistence farming is typical in the mountains and unemployment is a major problem. This has forced migration to other places for work, within Morocco and further afield in Europe or North Africa.
The Amazigh live a very simple life compared to other more developed countries, but they believe strongly in keeping their traditions. They have strong family values, which keep them bound together despite the harsh living conditions.